It’s the Rob Zombie you know and love… provided you love his vacuous, carnage-ridden horror films and not his guitar-shredding metal music…
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Though they presumably met a fatal end down the barrels of numerous law-enforcing guns in The Devil’s Rejects (2005), the serial-killing Firefly family – Otis (Bill Moseley), Baby (Sheri Moon Zombie) and Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) – are revealed to have survived the shootout, and have spent the following decade paying for their crimes in prison. Spaulding is executed via lethal injection, while Otis, with the help of his half-brother Foxy (Richard Brake), eventually manages to escape. On the run, the pair form a murderous plot to free Baby too.
Fans of Rob Zombie’s films will know exactly what they’re getting into with 3 From Hell, which slots comfortably into Zombie’s filmography by checking off every box on his reliable and repetitive brand of moviemaking. It’s typical grindhouse horror, wearing its 60’s/70’s era inspirations obviously on its sleeve.
Zombie clearly puts a lot of passion into his projects, but his scripts always feel devoid of real substance and mostly succeed in bringing to mind the better horrors they’ve borrowed generously from.
The good news is that 3 From Hell stands as one of Zombie’s better efforts. A very belated threequel to his first two films House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, 3 From Hell is just entertainingly nutty enough to justify its existence. Resurrecting characters that couldn’t possibly have survived the fate they met all those years ago means there’s no chance of this being taken seriously, which fortunately Zombie realises and plays things looser and sillier than usual.
Sid Haig’s iconic clown-faced killer Captain Spaulding is unfortunately reduced to a cameo here; due to his declining health, he was forced to step down (and sadly passed away not long after the film’s release). This made Zombie rework his story to include Richard Brake’s half-brother of the Fireflies, Foxy, who fits the trio well even if he can’t quite fill Haig’s clown-sized boots.
But really, this is Otis and Baby’s show. The deliriously repellent pair teeter a fine line between endearing and irritating, but remain, for the most part, curiously watchable. Zombie can’t seem to decide if we should be jeering or applauding these sadists. At the very least, he’s probably wrung a career-best performance out of his spouse Sheri Moon Zombie.
As bonkers and admittedly fun as it is for a good while, 3 From Hell does wind up overstaying its welcome by about twenty minutes. It’s nothing new whatsoever, but diehard Zombie fans will be more than satisfied, and your casual viewer looking for a bit of grungy thrills could do worse.
Image courtesy of Lionsgate